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CARCHE´SIUM (καρχήσιον), according to Callixenus (in Ath. 474f), was a kind of cup, rather long (ἐπίμηκες), narrower in the middle than at either extremity, and with handles (ἐ̂τα) stretching from the top to the bottom. Asclepiades (in Ath. 488f) mentions carchesia among those vessels which have feet. It was a peculiarly Greek cup (Macr. 5.21 init.), and generally of a splendid nature. Legend tells how Jupiter gave one to Alcmena, and that very cup, we are informed (Ath. l.c.), used to [p. 1.364]be pointed out to travellers at Lacedaemon. At Babylon Diodorus (2.7) says there were two carchesia weighing 30 talents; and it is mentioned among the splendours of a royal court in Alciphr. Ep. 2.3. We never hear of it as made of clay; but of metal or precious stone, e. g. gold (Ath. 198c), and with embossed work (V. Fl. 2.655), silver (Ath. 605b), brass (Ovid, Ov. Met. 7.246), sardonyx (vid. infr.). Dennis (Etruria, i. p. cxvii.), however, and Birch (Hist. of Ancient Pottery, p. 380) (cf. Krause, Angeiologie, Taf. iv. fig. 9 a), consider the vase made of early black ware of Chiusi, in the possession of Sig. Terrosi of Cetona, to be a carchesium ; and Dennis also regards as a

Carchesium. (Birch and Dennis.)

carchesium the vase with a lid and relieved decorations which is given in the second illustration of a vase from Chiusi. The lists

Carchesium. (Dennis.)

of donations to the temples in C. I. G. 139, 140, 141, 150, show how very usual it was to dedicate silver carchesia. The passage quoted from Ovid is evidence that it was used for other substances (e. g. milk), though generally it was used for wine (carchesia Bacchi, Verg. G. 4.380). They are mentioned by Athenaeus as being used in the cottabos (667 e). The derivation is uncertain. Athenaeus (475b) considers it to come from the same root asκαρχάλεος, and, if so, it means “rough” with embossed work (cf. Val. Flac. l.c.). Our last woodcut represents the splendid carchesium known as the “cup of the Ptolemies,” which formerly belonged to the Abbey of St. Denys, and now is in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. It is of Oriental sardonyx, with Bacchanalian subjects engraved thereon.

From its likeness to this kind of goblet the name carchesium was applied to (1) the “top” above the yards, which with the θωράκιον or “waist-cloth of the top” formed an elevated

Carchesium. (Bibliothèque Nationalc, Paris.)

place for look-out or for signalling (cf. Catull. in Nonius, 15.28, “Lucida cum fulgent summi carchesia mali” ) or for discharging weapons from in warfare (Ath. 208e). (2) This top sometimes revolved, and into it was fastened a horizontal beam, which was used as a crane for loading and unloading the ship (Vitr. 10.5). (3) A block of pulleys at the top, through which were run the ropes used for hoisting the sail (the Schol. on Pind. N. 5, 50; Non. 15.28; Serv. on Aen. 5.77; the Schol. on Lucan 5.418). For full particulars, see NAVIS


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Pindar, Nemean, 5
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 7.246
    • Vergil, Georgics, 4.380
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 10.5
    • Lucan, Civil War, 5.418
    • C. Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica, 2.655
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 2.7
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